Riyadh slams ‘base­less lies’; Trump warns of ‘pun­ish­ment’

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

IS­TAN­BUL: A del­e­ga­tion of a dozen Saudi of­fi­cials was in Turkey yes­ter­day for talks on the dis­ap­pear­ance of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi af­ter Riyadh slammed as “base­less lies” Turk­ish ac­cu­sa­tions he was killed in­side its Is­tan­bul con­sulate. Mean­while, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened Riyadh yes­ter­day with “se­vere pun­ish­ment” if Khashoggi was killed. Turkey later ac­cused Saudi Ara­bia of fail­ing to co­op­er­ate with a probe into the dis­ap­pear­ance of Khashoggi. Com­ments by Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu rep­re­sented a hard­en­ing of Ankara’s hith­erto cir­cum­spect tone over the case.

With the mys­tery over Khashoggi un­re­solved 11 days af­ter he walked into the con­sulate and failed to reap­pear, a pro-govern­ment Turk­ish daily said the Saudi na­tional had recorded his own in­ter­ro­ga­tion in­side the mis­sion on an Ap­ple Watch. Turk­ish of­fi­cials have said they be­lieve Khashoggi was killed in­side the con­sulate and lurid claims have been leaked to me­dia that he was tor­tured and even dis­mem­bered.

Saudi in­sists Khashoggi, a Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­u­tor whose writ­ings have been crit­i­cal of pow­er­ful Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, left the build­ing safely but has yet to of­fer vis­ual ev­i­dence of this. The out­cry sur­round­ing his dis­ap­pear­ance threat­ens to not just harm brit­tle

Turkey-Saudi re­la­tions but also alarm the king­dom’s sup­port­ers in the West and tar­nish the re­form drive spear­headed by the crown prince.

“We’re go­ing to get to the bot­tom of it and there will be se­vere pun­ish­ment,” Trump told CBS’s “60 Min­utes” pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to an ex­tract of an in­ter­view that was re­leased yes­ter­day. “As of this mo­ment, they (Saudi) deny it and they deny it ve­he­mently. Could it be them? Yes,” Trump said in the in­ter­view, which was con­ducted on Thurs­day. But he again voiced his re­luc­tance to limit US arms sales to the king­dom, which an­a­lysts see as one of Wash­ing­ton’s key po­ten­tial levers. Trump, who has be­come no­to­ri­ous for his at­tacks on Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists, added the mat­ter was es­pe­cially im­por­tant “be­cause this man was a re­porter”.

Ankara had said that a search of the con­sulate had been agreed but this has yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize amid re­ports the two sides are at odds over the con­di­tions of en­try into what is Saudi sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory. “We still have not seen co­op­er­a­tion in or­der to en­sure a smooth in­ves­ti­ga­tion and bring ev­ery­thing to light. We want to see this,” Cavu­soglu said. He said Riyadh must let Turk­ish “prose­cu­tors and ex­perts en­ter the con­sulate” to carry out their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “Where did he go miss­ing? There, at the con­sulate,” the Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter said, adding that “talks are con­tin­u­ing” with Saudi of­fi­cials in a bid to re­solve the im­passe.

The Saudi del­e­ga­tion was in Turkey and due to have talks this week­end in Ankara and take part in a work­ing group on the dis­ap­pear­ance, of­fi­cial Turk­ish me­dia said. The NTV chan­nel said the 11-per­son del­e­ga­tion had on Fri­day in­spected the con­sulate in Is­tan­bul. Riyadh has warmly wel­comed the cre­ation of the work­ing group but In­te­rior Min­is­ter Prince Ab­del Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef slammed claims that the king­dom or­dered Khashoggi to be killed in­side the con­sulate. He de­scribed the al­le­ga­tions as “base­less al­le­ga­tions and lies”.

Ankara has so far trod­den care­fully in the con­tro­versy, with the most sen­sa­tional al­le­ga­tions splashed in the pro-govern­ment press but Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip

Er­do­gan has so far stopped short of di­rectly ac­cus­ing Riyadh of wrong­do­ing. Turkey and Saudi have an un­easy re­la­tion­ship, with dis­putes over the oust­ing of the Is­lamist govern­ment in Egypt and the block­ade im­posed on Ankara’s ally Qatar. But Er­do­gan has gen­er­ally been wary of needling the oil-rich con­ser­va­tive king­dom and on Satur­day again gave a long speech to sup­port­ers without men­tion­ing the is­sue.

The spokesman of Er­do­gan’s rul­ing party, Omer Ce­lik, ac­knowl­edged yes­ter­day that there were “ex­tremely sen­sa­tional claims” about Khashoggi’s fate in the me­dia and said there would be “se­vere con­se­quences” for any­one found re­spon­si­ble if they were true. “Far from the spec­u­la­tion, work is be­ing car­ried out in the most sen­si­tive way to find out what hap­pened,” he said in tele­vised com­ments.

The lat­est claims re­ported by the pro-govern­ment Sabah daily said that Khashoggi had been wear­ing an Ap­ple Watch when he en­tered the con­sulate which was synced with an iPhone left out­side with his fi­ancee Hat­ice Cen­giz. It said that the watch had recorded what hap­pened in­side the con­sulate and this was up­loaded to his cloud, al­though Saudis sought to par­tially delete it. “The mo­ments of Khashoggi’s ques­tion­ing, tor­ture and killing were recorded on the Ap­ple watch,” said Sabah.

An­a­lysts say that Turkey is hop­ing to find sup­port from its NATO ally the United States in the case, al­though Ankara-Wash­ing­ton have been in cri­sis over the de­ten­tion for the last two years of a Protes­tant pas­tor. But the pas­tor, An­drew Brun­son, was freed on Fri­day and al­lowed to fly home by a Turk­ish court, in a move that could help nor­mal­ize ties.

Mean­while Prince Mo­hammed’s big Oc­to­ber con­fer­ence - the Fu­ture In­vest­ment Ini­tia­tive dubbed by me­dia as the “Davos in the Desert” af­ter the an­nual con­fer­ence in the Swiss re­sort - has suf­fered a litany of can­cel­la­tions over the con­tro­versy. Key busi­ness fig­ures like the chief ex­ec­u­tive of ride hail­ing app Uber into which the Saudi’s own in­vest­ment fund in­jected money - are no longer show­ing up while me­dia groups like the New York Times, Fi­nan­cial Times and Bloomberg have pulled their spon­sor­ship. US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said yes­ter­day that he still planned to at­tend, as did IMF chief Chris­tine La­garde. She said she was “hor­ri­fied” by the case but has to “con­duct the busi­ness of the IMF in all cor­ners in the world and with many gov­ern­ments”. — Agen­cies


IS­TAN­BUL: A cat sits on a stool at the doors of the Saudi con­sulate yes­ter­day.

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